Serena Williams didn't take the US Open title, but she won New York Fashion Week
Serena Williams was hustling backstage, orchestrating it all from behind the scenes. Mere moments before her S by Serena women's autumn/winter 2019 collection debuted at New York Fashion Week on Tuesday, Williams checked in with her hair and makeup teams to ensure perfection. She beamed as her models lined up -- every size, shape and hue -- ready to meet the critics, the naysayers and the fans. Nothing out of place, nothing to question.
Lucite chairs lined the runway. Cameras flickered. Kim Kardashian, La La Anthony, Gayle King, street fashion pioneer Dapper Dan and Vogue editor Anna Wintour all settled into their front-row positions. The first family of fashion nestled next to part of the first family of tennis, Williams' mother, Oracene Price, and husband, Alexis Ohanian.
Williams, 37, was confident about this pending win. She took to Instagram right before the models hit the runway to note, "This is a celebration ... we aren't nervous at all. We are enjoying this. We are ready."
Less than 72 hours before her runway presentation, Williams was at nearby Arthur Ashe Stadium, chasing her 24th Grand Slam at the US Open finals. The win would have tied Margaret Court's record 24 titles. But Serena was bested by Bianca Andreescu, 6-3, 7-5. It was the first Grand Slam for the 19-year-old Canadian. For Williams, it was a dream deferred, again.
During the postmatch news conference, Williams congratulated Andreescu and applauded her opponent's talents, following up with, "I didn't play my best today. I could have played better. ... I don't think Serena showed up."
On Monday, the eve of her collection's presentation, Williams arrived in Lower Manhattan for The Talk's "Breakfast of Champions." (The Talks are a series of in-depth conversations with leaders, artist and icons in fashion and culture. Wheaties hosted Williams' event.) Over French toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice, Endeavor CMO Bozoma Saint John peppered Williams with questions about entrepreneurship, motherhood, style and body image. Tennis stats weren't a thing. The US Open wasn't mentioned. This was another side of Williams -- and she clearly has a permanent spot at both tables.
"It's important to be yourself in fashion. In designing or on the court, I want to be expressive. You have to be true to yourself," said Williams, who co-chaired the 2019 Met Gala, to the crowd.
"It all started in the '90s, maybe 2000s. My parents stressed education with me. My parents wanted me to finish school. I ended up going to fashion school and studying the craft," Williams said at breakfast. "When I was younger, I used to make things for my dolls. That's kind of how it all started. I finally decided to invest in myself, and I'm having a lot of fun with it."
The four-time Olympic gold medalist previously designed clothing collections with HSN and Nike, and she launched her line, Serena, in May 2018. But Williams told the crowd that this time was different: "I'm even in on the model fittings."
Yes, Williams' 2-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., is her pride and joy, but this collection is her baby.
On game day, a fellow athlete was there to celebrate Williams' latest win.
"Serena is the best of the best. She's the kind of woman I want my daughter, Sasha, to be around and see," said Rick Fox, a three-time NBA champion. Fox has built a successful acting career, most recently starring in OWN's "Greenleaf." "I've been watching Serena's moves for about 20 years, and we'll be watching her moves for the next 50 years too."
#MeToo movement founder Tarana Burke was in attendance, telling the Associated Press that Williams is "strong in so many ways, not just physically. I'll always support her.''
The first model hit the runway in a graphic headscarf and maxi coat. Then followed a sequined suit, an asymmetrical black gown and a neon yellow duster over a leopard print dress. The showstopper was Williams' "What is your S" dress, which had words such as "shine," "strong," "saucy" and "spectacular" printed on the garment.
"This collection is a celebration for those who break limits, boundaries and tradition," said Williams in a news release following the presentation. "This is designed for people who turn fear into courage and doubt into confidence -- from indomitable mothers, daughters and sisters to resilient business owners and entrepreneurs, young girls with crazy dreams, and women of color who show no fear in the face of adversity or challenge."
Williams closed the show, which featured designs ranging from $59-$229, with a victory lap down the runway. She waved to the audience with Olympia on her hip. Fans who might not be familiar with her powerful two-handed backhands might know about Williams' famous friends, entrepreneurial endeavors and her flair for fashion. And it's all a part of the GOAT's legacy.